“Texas Standard”

Texas Standard 
December 03, 2015


We are submitting a single episode from the new daily news magazine, Texas Standard, for your consideration. This exciting project demonstrates the power of journalism dedicated to the public interest to inspire engagement among and between both citizens and those who represent them in the government.

Texas Standard was born amid a climate of contraction. For many years, as news operations and staffs dwindled across the nation, journalists yearned for a way to pool resources and continue to provide the high-level, serious, public interest broadcast news people depend on. In Texas, the need was especially acute as local print newspapers folded, demographics exploded, and the impact of Texas on the national and global stage reached historic new heights.

Two years ago, veteran journalist Emily Donahue (Marketplace, NBC, Christian Science Monitor), David Brown (Marketplace, Christian Science Monitor) and a small staff at the NPR station in Austin (KUT) quietly began research and development of a project of unprecedented scale in Texas: a partnership of public broadcasters, public media outlets, major newspapers and magazines across the state and independent journalists in Mexico, Washington and beyond. The team, working at the KUT studios, plotted, rehearsed and repeatedly demoed a daily one-hour program for public radio aimed at “covering the news that matters to Texans, no matter where the news is happening.” The program they imagined would have both a sense of immediacy and depth, rich with real Texas voices – especially people who rarely enjoy platforms in traditional media. It would share hidden stories from remote places. It would, for the first time, link rural Texans in a daily conversation with Texans in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Midland and other fast growing urban centers. And it would be smart and fast-paced with a polished, compelling and utterly engaging sound that could go toe-to-toe with any nationally-produced program… with a bit of Texas swagger, just for fun.

On March 2nd, 2015 (Texas Independence Day, no less), The Texas Standard took to the airwaves statewide with the slogan “no matter where you are, it’s Texas Standard time.” From live, tear-filled reactions at courthouses across Texas to the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, to a step-by-step walkthrough of the Sandra Bland dashcam arrest video with a noted civil rights expert, to the voices of asylum-seeking mothers and their children as they awaited word of their fates – Texans had never heard anything like it. Indeed, from what we can tell, there’s never been anything quite like it anywhere else in the nation.

The people it was made for responded immediately: in the last month alone, more than 250,000 listeners were tuning into the daily broadcasts, and thousands more were participating in the innovative interactive radio portion, commonly referred to on the air as “The Talk of Texas.” At this very moment, people are listening to live reports, hearing debriefs of seasoned journalists covering stories at the ground level, “Tweeting in” with what’s happening where they are, suggesting new stories and contributing to others – in real time. It’s as if some pent-up hunger were finally being satisfied. Not only are everyday listeners responding, but officials from Washington and Austin and across Texas are clamoring to be a part of the daily first-of-its-kind conversation.

Timing, no doubt, has counted for much.

From energy and the environment to the human faces of immigration, growing income gaps and monumental shifting political forces, it is increasingly clear that in the 21st century, as Texas goes, so goes the nation – for better, and for worse. The launch of the Texas Standard represents a groundbreaking shift in the telling and sharing of stories, putting the audience first and finding a way to meet a genuine journalistic need. We hope you will find our sample of our efforts worth the honor of Headliner’s Foundation recognition.

LINK to content online

Submitted by Emily Donahue.

Headliners Foundation